Vettel back in the game as spotlight falls on reliability and development
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Sep 2012   |  11:57 am GMT  |  26 comments

The constant push for Innovation in F1 always needs to be tempered with the requirement for the cars to be reliable.

And it’s also vital in a fast evolving competition like F1 that any development steps the teams bring to the cars do actually provide the boost in performance they are intended to.

In Singapore we saw both sides of this as McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton suffered a gearbox failure and lost what looked like a certain race win, which would have allowed him to close the gap on championship leader Fernando Alonso. It was the fourth retirement on technical grounds this season for the McLaren team.

With things as finely balanced as they are, the win would have brought Hamilton to within 25 points of Alonso with six races to go; instead he is now 52 points behind him.

Alonso is averaging 13.8 points per race this season. If he carries that through to the end of the season, he will have 277 points. Hamilton will therefore need to drop no more than 14 points in the next six races to beat that. He has to rely on a retirement for Alonso.

Meanwhile Ferrari brought new parts to Singapore, including a new rear wing, which failed to improve the car’s performance. The new rear wing was removed from the car after practice on Friday and the two Ferrari drivers used the Hungary specification high downforce wing for qualifying and the race.

Nevertheless, Alonso showed his usual consistency and bagged another 15 points, but it’s worth noting that the Ferrari has also been very reliable and these two factors are making all the difference this year.

“We cannot keep relying on the retirements of our rivals,” said Alonso after the race, suggesting that Ferrari urgently needs to find performance for the final title run-in. He knows full well that Singapore race winner Sebastian Vettel, is now his main championship challenger, only 29 points behind. He needs to score five points more than Alonso at every round in order to win the title. With two competitive McLarens at the front mixing it up, that is eminently possible, but the difference between second and third place is only 3 points, so Vettel really needs some wins or podiums with Alonso among the also rans.

Red Bull, in recent years considered the most innovative of all F1 teams, has struggled this year to make its mark technically, having had some of its innovations refused by the governing body, in areas like engine mapping and brake ducts.

There have been, essentially, four different versions of the car this year, but the one they have now is starting to look like the definitive version. This weekend Red Bull had some exciting new parts, including new front and rear wings and updated rear suspension and these all worked as planned, putting them back on the pace at the front.

However Red Bull, like McLaren, has also had its share of reliability issues this season. Webber has suffered a series of gearbox problems while Sebastian Vettel lost a likely win in Valencia with an alternator failure and lost a possible sixth place in Monza with the same fault.

In the late 1990s F1 moved towards quality control processes imported from industry and these led to a sea change in the reliability of the cars. With most of the competitive cars now finishing every race, technical failures carry a very heavy penalty, as Hamilton knows all too well after Singapore.

The cars have up to 2,000 sensors on them, providing real time data. Problems like Hamilton’s gearbox failure can be seen by the engineers on the telemetry as they develop.

There was nothing the engineers could do to remedy the situation remotely; they were forced to simply watch helplessly as the car headed towards another technical failure.


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Slighty ot:

2012 is the first year since 1983 that we’ve had 5 or more different winners from the start of the season.

Will it also be the first year since 1983 that the World Champion drives for a team that finishes third or lower in the constructors championship? 😉


Enzo Ferrari used to say that the best car is the fastest one on Saturday but the first one on the finish line on Sunday. Reliability has to be the key issue, especially now that new engines and new gear boxes become scarce.

Last Saturday I thought Hamilton would have steam rolled all the others. We know how it finished.

Besides, with a load of fuel, McLaren and Red Bull were no rockets and with the soft tyres Alonso was doing quite well and closed the gap.

Surely there’s more to come in the next six races.


Yes indeed, wise words from Mr. Ferrari. I agree, I think there will be more to come in the next few races. Now is the exciting point where we may some bigger risks. I expect McLaren and Lotus to bring everything they have to Japan and Korea. You know RBR will, if the other 2 outfits can pull off something spectacular we will have a thrilling end. If Alonso wins, then kudos to him for deserving the title this year.


To be fair, the Ferrari wasn’t exactly reliable in Q3 at Monza, when a broken component cost Alonso a shot at pole and, with it, a shot at the win.


I think that’s a follow up from getting wiped out in spa. With a new chassis stuff goes wrong and it’s a bit odd for me that basically Ferrari have been bullet proof other than on alonso’s car at monza.


Hamilton damaged his car in Q3, it was a mutual decision by him and the team to risk it and try to win from pole position. They could have taken a 5 place grid drop penalty and changed the gearbox. Its not the first decision that is costing Hamilton big points this year, not letting the faster Maldonado go in Valencia (15 points lost) and choosing the wrong rear wing in Spa (25 points lost) are two furter memorable ones. Of course in Singapore no one blames each other, as McLaren wants to secure his services for the future and Hamilton was involved in the decision.

Not a Hamilton fan, but he´d nonetheless deserve the title this year as he´d had some more bad luck than Button. Button i´dont know what his excuse this year is, he drives the fastest car but is out of the WDC fight with 6 races to go. Too much hype for Button by the british, he should accept #2 driver tag or go back to a midfield team. Webber can´t win when you have only 2 stand out races and get beaten in basically all other races by your teammate, he is always exceptional at the Nuerburgring, Monaco and Silverstone but for a WDC campaign thats of course to little. Raikkonen is doing a solid job in the first year after his return but solid is not enough for the title, sorry (more car related though). I hope Vettel wins the WDC now. Alonso is the only F1 driver who doesnt have to compete with his teammate in all 20 races, if Vettel or Hamilton had this luxury right from the first race they´d be leading now. It´s too easy for Alonso, getting 3/4 of the teams focus and having Massa of all people as his test driver #2 teammate. Now that Red Bull has made Webber the outright #2 after Spa and shifting all resources on Vettels side of the garage it´s equally easy to say Webber represents what the car can do and Vettel outdrives it. But that isnt so and Webber is not as washed up as is Massa on top of it. Ferrari and Alonso can fool a lot of people with their constant outperforming and maximising balloney at every race but they can´t fool all of them.LOL

Does Alonso actually remember the concept that you have to compete with your teammate at all, or is he believing his own hype now. I´d love to see Vettel or Hamilton go to Ferrari and then we´ll see what maximising means and how often his equipment fails when he is really pushed to his limits and how many weekends he would beat his teammate. Alonso most deserving driver this year, i don´t think so, with equal treatment there are at least 2 or 3 drivers who would show him up !


Lewis’ brush with the wall didn’t damage the gearbox. The team didn’t have any clue there was a problem until 1 1/2 laps before. If they had suspected on saturday, they would not have risked it.


You make 3 claims as if they were statements of fact. The first, that the collision didn’t damage the g-box is preposterous. The only way that they could “possibly” find out would have been to REMOVE it! Second, the team did have a CLUE. The collision with the wall. I DO believe them when they claim that they were “enlightened” during the race. Third, suspicion had to have been present on Saturday after the collision. One final and most salient note, g-boxes must last 5 races in 2012. This g-box was on its’ SECOND race. Had only been used once!



It was a very light hit. The team says it’s highly unlikely there’s any connection. That’s good enough for me.


Couldn’t have said it better myself. For me Ferrari really Broke Massa in Germany 2010(Your teammate is faster than you,do you understand?). And another thing that irritates me about Alonso if his constant moaning over the radio.


One of the most deluded and bitter comments I have read here in a long time.

If you were managing Ferrari and had a driver outperforming and outscoring the other at every almost every free practice, qualifying session and race for the last 3 season, who would you support for the title? Alonso has won the position he has at Ferrari on his own merit; Ferrari (and a lot of F1 fans) knows well that without him they would have been nowhere in the last 3 season.

25 point lost for Hamilton for choosing the wrong wing? Don’t make me laugh, 1st you have to finish the race in P1 to get 25 points, whatever wing you have and 2nd that is what F1 is about, maximizing the equipment at your disposal. Following you logic let’s add 10 to Alonso in Monza for the suspension failure in Q3!


Had a good laugh:-) Most deluded comment ever.

Alonso won in a poor car in Malaysia while Massa didn’t turn up until late in the season.

Naturally he will be supported more by the team now when each point is critical in the tight WDC race. Kimi was given preferential treatment by Lotus at Singapore when they knew that only he has a chance at the WDC between the two drivers.

It is normal to be bitter when your favorite driver has a bad weekend. But this is heights of delusion.

The table doesn’t lie and whoever is at the top at the end of the season is a deserving winner of the championship.

Equal treatment?? It is not as if Alonso has a jet pack on his car while Massa doesn’t. Alonso is making the best of what he has at his disposal, something that the Maccas don’t seem to understand.



I agreed with the post ’til

“Not a Hamilton fan, but”.

Invariably, what follows belies those

words. You didn’t disappoint.

Ferrari and Alonso are, this year, playing within the STATED, de facto, rules. In the past, the rules were de jure, and everyone, up and down the paddock, KNEW it and USED them when it suited their purpose.

Just wanted to set the record straight.



Ferrari have been reliable for a long long time. And it is even more amazing that Hungary 2008 happened now when you think of it.


Alonso broke engine in malasia 2010.


Alonso blew his engine as a result of his gearbox failing and having to do abnormal things in the downshifts but if one failure a year is bad then god help everyone else.


25 point gap, 6 to go = Vettle only needs to erode the differential at 5 points per race – very do-able, but even more so if RB start optimizing Webbers car for finishing higher up, where he could take points off Alonzo, instead of using him as Vettel’s tyre guinea pig


One day the FIA will realise that retirements make racing and indeed the championship far more interesting.


New rule: retirement roulette. Place a tiny explosive in every cars engine and pick numbers out of a lottery as the race unfolds. The numbers picked = the explosive going off and the driver retiring from the race.


McLaren’s retirements aren’t only costing them the points they might have scored, they’re allowing Alonso’s average score per race. Through others’ failures he’s scoring solid points on days where he shouldn’t be.

I feel he’s been supreme this year. I am not a Ferrari fan, but if he wins I’ll think it’s fully deserved and I’ll be pleased for Stefano. There’ll still be a part of me though thinking the hare’s been beaten by the tortoise.


Thanks James much better than the “non” news i’ve read on other “World” F1 websites on my Lunch break today……


not to mention Narain Karthikeyan costing him 4th place so really he has been robbed of 25 +8 +12 = 45 points which would had him at least 15 points ahead… any news why the alternators have been failing yet?


Narain did not cost him.

If anything, Vettel cost Narain and then added insult to injury… Bad form from him that we have now come to expect.


Do you mean the Narain Karthikeyan who Vettel cut across and drove into??

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